Simmons CQ, Thompson CH, Cawthon BE, Westlake G, Swoboda KJ, Kiskinis E, Ess KC, George AL. Direct evidence of impaired neuronal Na/K-ATPase pump function in alternating hemiplegia of childhood. Neurobiology of disease. 2018 Dec;115(115). 29-38. PMID: 29567111 [PubMed]
Mutations in ATP1A3 encoding the catalytic subunit of the Na/K-ATPase expressed in mammalian neurons cause alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) as well as an expanding spectrum of other neurodevelopmental syndromes and neurological phenotypes. Most AHC cases are explained by de novo heterozygous ATP1A3 mutations, but the fundamental molecular and cellular consequences of these mutations in human neurons are not known. In this study, we investigated the electrophysiological properties of neurons generated from AHC patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to ascertain functional disturbances underlying this neurological disease. Fibroblasts derived from two subjects with AHC, a male and a female, both heterozygous for the common ATP1A3 mutation G947R, were reprogrammed to iPSCs. Neuronal differentiation of iPSCs was initiated by neurogenin-2 (NGN2) induction followed by co-culture with mouse glial cells to promote maturation of cortical excitatory neurons. Whole-cell current clamp recording demonstrated that, compared with control iPSC-derived neurons, neurons differentiated from AHC iPSCs exhibited a significantly lower level of ouabain-sensitive outward current ('pump current'). This finding correlated with significantly depolarized potassium equilibrium potential and depolarized resting membrane potential in AHC neurons compared with control neurons. In this cellular model, we also observed a lower evoked action potential firing frequency when neurons were held at their resting potential. However, evoked action potential firing frequencies were not different between AHC and control neurons when the membrane potential was clamped to -80 mV. Impaired neuronal excitability could be explained by lower voltage-gated sodium channel availability at the depolarized membrane potential observed in AHC neurons. Our findings provide direct evidence of impaired neuronal Na/K-ATPase ion transport activity in human AHC neurons and demonstrate the potential impact of this genetic defect on cellular excitability.